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Fiction: Legal Theft– The Truth (812 words)

“Hey, AM.”

Marta looked up from the book she was reading cross legged on her bed to see Arthur—now sixteen years old and taller than both her and her sister, leaning against the doorframe to her room. He looked conflicted, and Marta wondered if he was going to try to pull that Since you’re my real mother can you tell Mom to let me… crap again. “Hey-o Kiddo, what’s up?”

“I wanted to ask you a question. Mom says I shouldn’t ask it, but—I don’t know. I kind of feel like I have to.”  Marta furrowed her eyebrows and considered him.

Technically, yes, he was her son, but Marta had never had that easy understanding of him that Avery did. They were a perfect case study of a genetic connection versus sixteen years of love, care, and direct devotion. That’s why he never got away with any of that real mother crap. They all knew that Avery was his mother, no ifs ands or buts.

“Yeah. Come in. You know you can ask me anything.”  Arthur crossed the room in two long strides, sitting himself down in Marta’s computer chair, spinning it so he faced the bed.  He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees, and Marta started to be able to see just how really worried he was. “Kiddo, what’s wrong?”

“I want—um—it’s just,” Arthur took a deep breath. “Mom says that you won’t tell me no matter what, and that I shouldn’t even ask because it will just upset you, but it’s not just that I want to ask, I feel like I need to ask whether you answer me or not I’ll go crazy if I don’t ask.” All the words came spilling out of his mouth in rush, like if he paused he would lose his nerve.

Marta was starting feel anxious now. She knew that this moment was going to come eventually, but the older and older Arthur got, she started to believe that she was going to manage avoid it. “What did you want to ask me, then?”

“I wanted to know,” Arthur smiled weakly at her, “Do you know who my father is?”

Marta smiled wildly, “Of course Kiddo. You do, too. Tall guy, dark hair, sometimes talks in an annoying accent, always looks at your Mom with those sappy eyes that makes us want to gag.”

Arthur shook his head, looking down at his feet. “No, A.M., I know who my Dad is. Obviously, Dad is my Dad, but—who is my father, I mean, my biological father?”

Marta’s smiled faded away now. “I do, Arthur. I’ve never had a doubt about who your biological father is. But—The truth of the matter is, Kiddo, he wanted nothing to do with us. He called me a whore, telling me that I’d probably had sex with so many men I couldn’t be sure it was his, and then offered me four hundred dollars to never talk to him about it again. I didn’t take his money, but I never spoke to him again. And I never spoke about him again until now. If you really feel that you must know, that your life cannot be complete without knowing his name, then I will tell you, and only you, on the condition that you never tell Avery or Bradley, because they are both still Very angry about things that happened around the time you were born, but I’m telling you now—your Mom and Dad are better than that boy I ever could have done raising you, and I’ve always believed it’s not worth wasting time on people who aren’t willing to give their time to you, so…”

Marta had spoken a lot faster than she met to.  Perhaps Arthur’s rushed speaking from earlier was a family trait. He looked a bit stunned. She realized she’d never been so stern with him, and he never saw her properly angry, like she got whenever she thought about that stupid teenage boy who had insulted her character for a mistake that was equal parts both of their fault. It did take two to tango, as the cliché said.

“I don’t want to talk to him. I don’t want anyone in my life who doesn’t want to be in mine. But—I was going through Mom’s year book the other day and I looked at every single face to see if there were traits of mine. I need to know his name so I can stop wondering. I think I deserve that.” Arthur answered.

“It’s a secret you will have to keep from your Mom and Dad.  Until you die or I die, whichever comes first, you understand?” Marta insisted.

“Yes, I promise,” Arthur insisted, leaning a little bit closer.

“Okay,” Marta smiled, “Yeah. Okay. Then I’ll tell you who your biological father is.”

 

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Fiction: Team (518 words)

“I do not like you.” Amelia was quick to make sure that he knew where he was in her opinion right from the start. She didn’t want there to be any confusion that her agreement to here and to help had at all changed her thoughts about him.

Evan nodded like he had expected as much, with that condescending look that set Amelia’s hair on edge and brought out the worst of her temper.  “You don’t have to like me. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of you. But Lindsey wanted us to work together. Because of that, our dislike for each other has to stay between us.”

“I know,” Amelia snapped at him quickly, before taking a deep breath. She continued in a much more civil tone, biting down on her temper as hard as she could. “I mean, I know. We have to act as a united front for Donald. It’s what Lindsey would have wanted.”

Almost subconsciously, they both turned just slightly to look at the silver urn on the fireplace, carved with a rose, next to a picture of the most important woman in both of their lives, Amelia’s sister and Evan’s wife.  Amelia felt the temper drain right out of her. Lindsey would hate to see her like this. She really had to work on that whole being the person my sister would want me to be promise she had made herself at Lindsey’s funeral.

“We are all he has now,” Evan said quietly. “We can’t pull him apart by trying to turn him against each other. That’s not fair.”

“I promise,” Amelia said quickly. When Lindsey had been alive, Amelia had never hesitated to make her distain for Lindsey’s husband known. Evan had always treated her civilly, even kindly, in spite of how Amelia acted to him. If he ever spoke bad of her it was in private. If anyone had to make the commitment to change, it was going to be here. “I promise, that from here on out any complaints I have of you will only be made in private to my friends when Donald is not with me, or to you directly if it is a concern with our—working relationship for a lack of a better word—when we can discuss it civilly with Donald being aware.”

For a second, Evan looked like he was sucking on a lemon, but his face returned to a neutral expression as he nodded. “Okay. I will promise the same. From here on out, we are a team.”

Only by thinking of Lindsey watching her, could Amelia stomach the thought of being on a team with him. Only by focusing on her love for her little nephew, Amelia swallowed down the bitter taste in her mouth and repeated back. “From here on out, we are a team.”

“Good,” Evan nodded, even managing to smile at her. “So. Let’s discuss the weekly schedule, shall we?”

Evan pulled a cleanly printed booklet out of his bag, labeled “Donald’s Weekly School/Play Schedule” on the front, and Amelia tried very hard not to scream.

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2017 in Stories

 

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Fiction: Open for Business (519 words)

She couldn’t believe it had finally come to this. All those years of patience, of working hard, of dealing kindly to people and not letting people take advantage of her—she was finally here.

She stood in the middle of her own business. This was her store. She owned it. Other’s had helped of course, and she had investors that she had to do right by in the long run, but this was her store. Hers. No one else’s.

She let out a laugh and wrapped her arms around herself in a self-hug.

“Are you going crazy?” She turned fast to see her father standing in the doorway between the store part and the “employees only” section. “Because I would really hate to have you committed right before your big day. It would be such a tragedy. I’d be on the news saying ‘She came so close to her dream only to fall at the finishing line.’” He shook his head in mock disappointment.

“Oh, shush. Let me enjoy this moment.” She laughed again. He smiled widely at her.

“Of course, love, of course. You deserve this.” He crossed to the middle of the room and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “I am so proud of you. You know that, right?”

“I had a hint when you said ‘I am so proud of you’ about a dozen times today.” She laughed, letting herself be pulled into his side.

“Well, I am super proud,” He countered, “At least a dozen times a dozen proud. And I need to make sure you know it.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. Thanks, Dad.”

The silence drew on for a while, before her dad continued in a soft voice, “Your mom would be proud too, you know.”

She froze on the spot for a second.  Her Dad never mentioned her mom when he could help it, and since she was so young when her mother died, she tended to follow his lead. Her grandparents had taught her all about her mother, and what kind of woman she had been, and who she would want her daughter to be—but her dad always stayed quiet. Obviously, they never talked about it, but she’d always just assumed it was a grief thing. How he managed to cope.

“She would have been,” he repeated, gaining a bit more strength in his voice now. “She would be so proud of the fact that you got here, and that you got here by your own strength instead of cheating and scheming and she would be so proud that you believe in yourself.” He took a deep breath, like he’d just sprinted to get through that. “I think that you are going to be successful here, because I think she’ll be watching over you.”

She swallowed hard a few times, trying to get the knot her in throat small enough to talk around. “Thank you, Dad. Thank you for saying that.”

He gave her a squeeze around the shoulders. “Sure thing, Kiddo. Let’s go home. We need as much sleep as we can get before our big day tomorrow.”

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2017 in Stories

 

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Fiction: Family Home (572 words)

Eleanor was always excited when Grampy came home. She would rush to the front door when she heard his truck honk at the end of the long dirt drive, flinging herself down the stairs to greet him as he unfolded himself from the front seat of the pickup. He would scoop her up into his arms and swing her round, before pulling her in tight with an almost crushing hug. He always smelled of salt and sweat and fish, which she could never tolerate for too long—but it also smelled to her like homecoming.

He would place her back on her feet, grab his bag out with one hand, and hold her little hand with the other, and they’d make their way back up the porch steps. That’s usually where they went their separate ways. Grampy would stop for a second to hug Eleanor’s mother, his only daughter, and then march his way upstairs for a shower and quick shave. Eleanor would dip into the kitchen behind her mother, and start preparing Grampy’s lunch.

Ever since she was six years old, Eleanor insisted that she make it herself, carefully slicing pieces of bread off the big loaf (under her mother’s watchful eye) lathering them with mayonnaise and mustard, before carefully stacking lettuce, tomato, cheese and giant chunks of ham between the slices. She’d leave her mother to cut the sandwich into quarters, while Eleanor ran to the fridge for the potato salad and pasta salad that she and her mother always made the night before Grampy came home. With two heaping helpings of the salads, and the quarters of the sandwich carefully arranged on the plate—The plate was set down at Grampy’s usual space in the dining room.

During the meal, it was her mother’s turn though. While Grampy ate, he and her mom discussed the farm in the weeks since he left, what animals were doing well, doing poorly, and discussing the thoughts and plans that her mom had come up with while she was running the place. They stayed at the table until all the business was discussed. Eleanor never spoke during this, but she listened to every word, absorbing as much as she could. After all, one day it would be her job to run this place, and she didn’t want to disappoint them by doing anything wrong.

But once the business talk was done, it was Eleanor’s night again. They went to the living room, where Grampy would sit in his usual spot on the couch, leaning heavy on the couch cushions, propping his feet up on the coffee table. Eleanor stretched out along the length of the couch, resting her head gently on a pillow placed on Grampy’s knees. He would start telling her about the trip out on the boats for the last couple of weeks. She knew all about exaggeration and “fishermen’s tales” but she would still shut her eyes and listen to the stories, imagining them all happening exactly as he described them.   Eventually, she would fall asleep there on his lap, visions of giant fish and wild storms chasing her and her Grampy through her dreams.

The next morning, she would wake up in her own bed with no memory of how she got there—and would hurry to get dressed, desperate not to waste a moment of her Grampy being home before he went back out onto the boat again.

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2017 in Stories

 

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Fiction: Rainbow (99 words)

This was the hardest part. Not the hours of pain and laboring before–I would gladly go through those forever if it meant that this part would go well.

No, the labor was done, my baby was born, and they rushed her away to check her and clean her. And I had to wait in silence while three backs faced me, huddled over my child, waiting in the chilling silence.

Then, amazingly, miraculously, there is a scream of a cry. My little girl is alive. They wrap her up and place her in my arms.  For now, all is well.

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2017 in Stories

 

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Fiction: After the Attack (665 words)

Harlowe blew in like storm winds, and headed straight towards Conlyn. “Take me to her. Now.”

Conlyn lead her upstairs but let her go into the room first.  He watched her walk towards the couch where the doctors had set up Hana, and take her in slowly.  Conlyn hung back, not wanting to stomach looking at Hana face on again.  Not like this.

Harlowe came to a halting stop halfway through the room, clearly unable to approach her sister.  After a moment, she turned to wheel back to Conlyn.  For a second he thought she might hit him.  And for a second he wanted her to.  He wanted her to beat him down, and he wouldn’t even have tried to stop her. He wanted someone to punish him for what he’d let happen to Hana.  He wanted someone to lay physical and proper blame on him so that he could stop blaming himself inside his own head.

But Harlowe didn’t take a swing.  She covered her mouth with both of her hands, blinking back tears.  She took two shaky breaths before slowly lowering her arms to her sides again.  “This wasn’t supposed to be her, Con.  She’s not a fighter.  She never should have had to fight.  I should have been there to protect her.”

“I’m so sorry, Harlowe.”  Conlyn was impressed with how steady his voice was. He felt like he was going to explode, but his voice was still steady.  “I was there, I should have never left her side.  I shouldn’t have let her get so close to this.  I’m so sorry. So, so sorry.”

Harlowe stepped forward and pulled him into a hug.  The way she placed her hands on his back, and rested her head against his collarbone remind him of the way Hana had hugged him.  Taller, but the same movements, the same attempt at comfort. He sniffed hard and was determined to not let a single tear fall. Not when her sister wasn’t crying.

“It’s not your fault, Conlyn,” Harlowe said in a strong voice, “This was bad people taking advantage of a good person, and even if you had been right next to her side something bad would have happened to you both.”  Harlowe stepped back so that she could look him straight in the eye. “In fact, Conlyn, it’s good you weren’t there when she got hurt.  Had you both been hurt, you couldn’t have brought her back to me.”

“I’m so sorry,” Conlyn said again.

“I don’t blame you.  I’m sure Hana doesn’t blame you.  She will get better.  She’s tough, and she will get past this. Okay. Don’t you dare underestimate my sister.”  Harlowe went for a weak smile, and then Conlyn felt guilty for the fact that Harlowe was trying to cheer him up when her sister was laying bruised and battered only a few feet behind her.

“I should go–let you have some family time.'” Conlyn went to step back, but Harlowe’s fingers tightened on his shoulders.

“Don’t you dare, Conlyn. Hana needs you here. I need you here. Whether you like it or not, you’re part of the family now.”

“Okay. Okay.  But I need a glass of water.  I’ll be right back. Do you want me to bring you anything?”

“A water would be great,” Harlowe answered, but she’d already turned away, slowly approaching Hana again.  He watched her kneel at the couch side and hold Hana’s hand in hers gently before he turned and headed down towards the kitchen.  Only there did he allow himself a moment to cry.  The cooks ignored him in a way that could only be considered a kindness in their own way. He ignored them too as he regained his composure and tried to put his own weak smile back on before he headed up again, a glass of water in each hand.  He sat down next to Harlowe, and together they kept a bedside vigil through the night.  No one dared suggest they move.

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2017 in Stories

 

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Fiction: A Very Merry Unbirthday (505 words)

Chris found Lizzy just inside the front door when he came home from work.  She was leaning carefully against the wall, arms crossed, staring at a spot on the floor that seemed to have offended her greatly.  Immediately he tried to remember if he had promised to do something for her and was coming up dry. She hadn’t even seemed to notice that he was there yet—so he pressed his luck, wrapping an arm around her waist and leaning into give her a kiss.  “Everything alright?”

Lizzy smiled, sighed, and waved her hand in the general direction of the living room.  “I want you to know I had nothing to do with this, and please don’t hold it against me.”

Chris took a quick look over his shoulder, but couldn’t see into the living room from here.  He leaned in to whisper to Lizzy, “Should I be afraid?”

“If you want to be,” Lizzy shrugged, slipping out of Chris’s hold on her waist and taking the first step towards the living room, “After all, they are your sisters.”

Chris winced and went through the calendar in his head.  It was his half-birthday—which was his oldest sister’s idea of the perfect day to give someone a birthday surprise because “they wouldn’t see it coming.”   Since he’d been out-of-town for his last birthday, he really should have expected this.

He steeled himself for the worst and then followed Lizzy into the room.  He was immediately greeted with two-party blowers in the face from the younger sisters, and a vision much like a party store had come to his living room to die.  There were three separate banners that read ‘Happy Birthday’ and one that even said ‘Christopher,’ Streamers of the blue, green, red, and yellow variety, about a dozen balloons already in various states of deflating, and three wrapped presents sat on the coffee table near a cake that looked like it might have gotten a little bit squashed in transport.

“Surprise!” Charlotte, the oldest, laughed, throwing confetti into his hair, “We got you, didn’t we?”

“You sure did,” Chris offered his best smile, making eye contact with the thoroughly not impressed Lizzy now leaning against an entirely different wall.  “The thing is—Liz and I kind of had a date night planned…And I don’t want to ruin her night.”

“It’ll be quick,” Charlotte insisted, dragging Chris by the arm to sit on the couch, “We’ll have you in and out in no time.”  She patted him on the arm distractedly while she armed herself with more Confetti.

Chris gave Lizzy a ‘save me’ look, but she just shrugged again, helplessly.

I’ll see you in about four hours, she mouthed, painfully accurately for any situation involving his sisters, and then she slipped down the hall towards the bedrooms before she could be asked to join the festivities.    Chris barely had time to call her a traitor in his head before he was met with another face full of confetti.

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2017 in Stories

 

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